Lot Details

1949-1951, printed later
50.8 x 40.64 cm

Seydou Keïta
Born c. 1921, Bamako, Mali
Died 2001, Paris, France

Seydou Keïta’s photographs eloquently portray Bamako society during its era of transition from a cosmopolitan French colony to an independent capital. Initially trained by his father to be a carpenter, Keïta’s career as a photographer was launched in 1935 by an uncle who gave him his first camera, a Kodak Brownie Flash, which he had purchased during a trip to Senegal. During his adolescence Keïta mastered the technical challenges of shooting and printing; he later purchased a large-format camera. The larger format not only offered an exceptional degree of resolution, it also made it possible for Keïta to make high quality contact prints without the aid of an enlarger. In 1948 he opened his own studio in Bamako and he quickly built up a successful business. Whether photographing single individuals, families, or professional associations, Keïta balanced a strict sense of formality with a remarkable level of intimacy with his subjects. Like many professional photographers, he furnished his studio with numerous props, from backdrops and costumes, to Vespas and luxury cars. He would renew these props every few years, which later allowed him to establish a chronology for his work. Keïta commented on his studio practice, “It’s easy to take a photo, but what really made a difference was that I always knew how to find the right position, and I was never wrong. Their head slightly turned, a serious face, the position of the hands . . . I was capable of making someone look really good.”

Keïta went to exceptional lengths to bring out the beauty of his subjects and the brilliant patterns of his backdrops proved a particularly effective foil. He worked intuitively, reinventing portrait photography through his search for extreme precision. In 1962 the newly installed Socialist government made Keïta its official photographer; shortly thereafter he closed down his studio, although he remained active until his retirement in 1977. His archive of over 10,000 negatives was gradually brought to light in the early 1990s; Keïta has since achieved international recognition. Inventive and highly modern, his emphasis on the essential components of portrait photography—light, subject, framing—firmly establishes Keïta among the twentieth-century masters of the genre.[caacart.com]

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Publication: Samuel Fosso, Seydou Keïta, Malick Sidibé : portraits of pride : västafrikanskt porträttfotografi = West African portrait photography. Stockholm : Raster Förlag, [2003]. Lamunière, Michelle. You look beautiful like that : the portrait photographs of Seydou Keïta and Malick Sidibé / Michelle Lamunière. Cambridge : Harvard University Art Museums ; New Haven : [Distributed by] Yale University Press, c2001. Keita, Seydou, ca. 1921-2001. Seydou Keïta / André Magnin (ed.) ; texts by André Magnin and Youssouf Tata Cissé. Zurich ; New York : Scalo, c1997. Keita, Seydou, ca. 1921-2001. Seydou Keita / introduction par Youssouf Tata Cissé. Paris : Centre National de la Photographie, c1995. Keita, Seydou, ca. 1921-2001. Seydou Keita. Paris : Fondation Cartier pour l'art contemporain, 1994.
The seller has recorded the following condition for this lot:
Area: Other area
Location: Other location
Notes: 2 minor dents along bottom edge of photo
Degree: Minor

Definition Key
Image The central image area, composition, or focal point; the area inside the margins/plate marks.
Margin Areas bordering the central image, outside the plate marks, or the perimeter area.
Edge The farthest edge of the object.
Verso The reverse/back of the object.

Minor An existing condition which generally does not involve risk of loss.
Moderate Noticeable damage, increasing in severity and/or size; should be monitored or corrected by a conservator.
Major Distinct, recognizable damage; the stability of the work is questionable and risk is a factor. Requires the attention of a conservator.
Extreme Advanced and severe damage; work is insecure and at great risk.

  • Ships From: New York, USA
  • Shipping Dimensions: 20 x 16 in. (50.8 x 40.64 cm.)
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